Busdriver: “Thumbs” Album Review

Written By: Ethan Griggs

My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com

Regan Farquhar, better known to the hip-hop world as Los Angeles’s Busdriver, is definitely no rookie to the scene, he’s been releasing solo albums and mixtapes, as well as collaborations, for over fifteen years now, and he shows no signs of slowing down. His latest release, Thumbs, is his second mixtape he released in 2015, and like the preceding Vidal Folder, is a grab bag of gritty West Coast hip-hop and gangsta rap. Over the tape’s forty one minutes, Driver manages to create a work that is cohesive and lose at the same instance, much like Chance the Rapper’s three mixtapes. This tape lacks – or exchanges, rather – the sleek production of the Chicago MC for the dark soundscapes of classic Cali, bringing more of a Schoolboy Q vibe to the music than anything.

It’s not totally impossible to relate the album to the sounds of Chicago. However, there are tracks on this tape like “Great Spooks of Enormous Strength” that are reminiscent of Chicago footwork artists like the late DJ Rashad and J-Lin.

This music is definitely an equal pairing of honest, intelligent verses with stark and sharp electronic hip-hop production; and yet, there are further ties to Chicago on the mixtape when Milo pops up on the featured track “Worlds to Run”, but the Midwest is balanced by the West Coast when the unmistakable voice of Anderson. Paak is heard towards the track’s end.

Driver even reaches all the way to the East, inviting Hemlock Ernst (the rap alias of Future Islands’ Samuel Herring) from Baltimore on “Ministry of the Torture Couch”. Certainly, the album serves as a “map” of American hip-hop and rappers. Nevertheless, Cali MC’s are the stars, with features by Del the Funky Homosapien, Zeroh, Daveed Diggs, and Jeremiah Jae – just to name a few.

Like many albums and mixtapes in this genre released recently, much of the music is anit-police. The “Black Lives Matter” sentiment echoes all over the album and culminates at the album’s end when Busdriver speaks on “Species of Property”, providing revelations and reasoning’s behind the N-word, its origin, and why it is still said, saying, Did we become or were we always this, and what was this? Where did the border between us and the world merge? No one knows. Thankfully we do know the storms that forge the idea the definition is uninterrupted. The nigga is the variable. The nigga is the unknowable. A mislabeled parcel of human electricity. Prehistoric in form, beyond time and essence.” Although this mixtape is reaching its second birthday, it’s more relevant than ever in America.

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